I would like to take this moment today, dear Injustice, to say that you’re among friends. We care about you very very much and I feel like it’s time for an intervention. Something’s just not right and I’d like to try to understand what’s happening with you. There are some uneasy undercurrents in your plotting, the Spectre’s alignment is weirdly inorganic, Superman (yellow ring or no) has crossed the line into the land of the absolutely irredeemable, and now characters keep getting introduced and knocked off the chessboard in the blink of an eye. Last review I am pretty sure I said: oh don’t worry folks, Etrigan will be back. Now, I’m not so confident.
Yes, I’m worried about Injustice. Why? What happens in this issue? Print issue No. 4 collects the Digital Firsts 7 & 8, “Raven’s Rescue” and “Ragman’s Souls” and the main thrust of the action is that Constantine, with Klarion’s help (and unbeknownst to Batman) has set a trap for Superman using Raven as bait. Raven’s astral image appears to Superman begging for help and despite Spectre’s cautions, Superman charges in to rescue the damsel in distress with Ragman lying in wait.
The rest of this review contains implied SPOILERS. Because otherwise I was going to have to drop it all under a cut. If you haven’t read the issue, do so first. I don’t want to poison your thoughts as your experience of this issue may differ radically from mine.
All right, if you’re still reading, I am going to assume you’ve either read the book or don’t care about spoilers. But I should probably also warn you of much ranting ahead. Yes, ranting–and we’ll start with the bad to tell you why:
I have long-loved Ragman as a (criminally underdeveloped, underused) character in the DCU (I still have his first appearances from 1976–yes, I’m old). So you cannot imagine my surprise and delight when Constantine conjured him up to deal with Superman as the formerly Big Blue Boy Scout so justly deserves. Better still, here was a entity with characteristics similar to Spectre (if Spectre represents Old Testament justice in a Christian-leaning sensibility, Ragman represents it even more entrenched in the Judaic tradition). So let the Superman camp have Spectre and the Resistance can have Ragman and oh my God this is going to be awesome!
Well that’s not really how it worked out here, is it?
I love this exchange, but having ethics is deadly in this book!
Okay, on the one hand I can stamp my foot and take my toys and go home pouting, but there’s something more disturbing going on here in the world of Injustice that’s becoming a trend with Year Three and I feel like I have to say something about it.
I’m all for death and carnage and there have been some heart-wrenching moments throughout this series, but this is the second time a character has been introduced and then unceremoniously obliterated having scarcely peeped a line or two. That’s kind of infuriating in the bad way. Not the dramatic “oh my God I can’t believe what just happened” way, but in the “Oh fer schnitzel’s snot, that was pointless!”
And I keep reminding myself that futility is our destiny in this saga–that our intrepid Resistance is doomed to fail. But that doesn’t mean that the story must necessarily be just a series of catastrophic defeats (translation: this is bumming me out!). It’s bad enough that two of my favorite DCU characters are siding in Superman’s camp (for which neither I can find logic), but then to do this to Ragman just out of the gate? And how is this justified? Ragman is at least as righteous as Spectre. I want to see some repercussions!
I don’t know. Maybe you’re sitting there, reading this and thinking: Ragman’s a lame character–cannon fodder–what’s the big deal? But at the end of the day this business isn’t so much personal as it’s about the pointlessness of it. Constantine says he has some contingency plans, which I suspect we’ll see in the next issue, but for now, the little voice in the back of my head that incessantly intones: Trust in Tom Taylor is ebbing very faint because I confess I don’t feel like this is dramatically on par with the first two Years just yet. And I don’t know if it’s going to be able to pull itself up.
Some other unfortunate weaknesses in this week’s offering:
- I thought Mike S. Miller’s work on the second half of the book shows some slippage back into old habits: stretchy anatomy and perspectives that are just slightly off (look at his “down shots” in particular; the characters tend to lean strangely into the horizon. Constantine is also a wee bit off model–enough that it’s noticeable.
- Superman’s use of an expletive. Who is this guy? Can’t even recognize him anymore and maybe that’s intentional, but dang it’s rough.
- Neil Googe’s work on the cover isn’t great. Raven’s pose feels really awkward. Rex Lokus’ colors are very nice as always, but I feel like the image is too heavily inked.
- Spectre is kind of a doof. Lap dog to Superman, panting around his ankles like he wants a snack. I still don’t get how that works. Or why.
Can Superman really outfly Spectre? Can’t Spectre just “poof” anywhere?
Bruno Redondo and Xermanico deliver their usual strong sequential imagery and Superman finally gets his butt off his throne and goes out to actually do something, which is great. The mid-book cliffhanger (end of Digital First no. 7) is outstanding. It’s a shame, editorially, that it couldn’t have been the cliffhanger for the print issue, though maybe that would have made me doubly angry at the action that follows.
There are also some thematic things here with Constantine that ring true and well and made me happy to see: his scheming behind Batman’s back, and, ultimately, the cowardly way he turns from Rory’s fate are classic jerk Constantine behaviors.
Nice smaller moments throughout: Klarion and Constantine’s jocularity, Shazam’s attempted intercession, Ragman’s patches falling around Constantine like ashes. Nice moments from Wes Abbott as letterer as well. His “Shrrrrrrrrriiip” as Spectre disrobes Rory was particularly evocative.
Nothing especially ugly. Though I see this issue as a bit of a misfire, it is technically otherwise solid reading (as always!). I’ve mentioned it before: even on a “bad” week, Injustice is still one of the best books on the stands.
Attaching a rating to this book was especially hard this week. My initial impulse was to rate it about a 6.5, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Despite my personal feelings about the seemingly dismissive way that Ragman was handled, this book continues to prove that it has surprises in store (not all of which we might like). And any time a comic book manages to infuriate you, you know you’re engaged enough to care, so I restored a half-point back. Because nothing is worse than flipping through a comic book unenthusiastically, setting it aside, and immediately forgetting it–and that’s never the case with Injustice.
- You’re a fan of Shazam; looks like he’ll be possibly be playing a larger part in this arc.
- Watching Constantine trap totally evil Superman sounds like a good time.
- You love Ragman as much as I do (though I can’t promise you’ll be pleased)!
Injustice is flirting dangerously close to falling to the dark side given its treatment of both the Spectre and now Ragman–two characters that at the very least could have made for an interesting balance of power (or even cancelled one another out). But the book is headed in a different direction and for the first time ever the path ahead is uneasily murky. Is Year Three just going to be one setback after another for the Resistance? Issue no. 5 better bring us some hope, because right now the series is kind of depressing in a not-so-great way.